The Ark

Bye for now Billy!

Fri February 23rd, 2018

As I write this, I am pondering on the loss of the great Billy Graham – a man who led countless souls to Christ and was truly an evangelist in the New Testament sense.

Billy Graham wasn’t from Pentecostal stock, in fact he was brought up Presbyterian, so on a number of issues you could say there was opportunity for me to dispute with him doctrinally, but I never did, and never will. The truth is that Billy remained about his Father’s business and there was nothing to argue about – he did a great job.

Unlike so many Americans of his generation, he led a ministry without a whiff of scandal, he wasn’t consumed by money or the desire for it, he wasn’t always upgrading his private jet but was always strengthening his friendships. He valued people and it came through powerfully in his ministry.

My wife and I served as councillors during mission Sheffield in 1985, when typically, 47000 people a night heard Billy Graham preach. His appeal was without emotion, there was no great hype, in fact there was no hype at all, just a simple invitation to come out to the front. Billy told us of the good news of Jesus dying for our sins and raised to life but you could have knocked me down with a feather when instantly people started to walk out to the front. Thousands walked forward each night! There was no repeat appeal, no playing on emotions – people just responded, as we sang “Just as I am”.

Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not To rid my soul of one dark blot, To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about With many a conflict, many a doubt, Fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; Sight, riches, healing of the mind, Yea, all I need in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown Hath broken every barrier down; Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, of that free love The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove, Here for a season, then above, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Without doubt Billy Graham was a gift to this world and his impact will be felt for a long time; he has left his mark on a number of US Presidents and been a friend to heads of state all over the world including our own Queen. Most of all he has left his mark on heaven – millions of ordinary people have found their way there through his signposting Jesus to them. Now he has gone home to a great reward.

Billy was once quoted as saying:

 “I haven't written my own epitaph, and I'm not sure I should. Whatever it is, I hope it will be simple, and that it will point people not to me, but to the One I served.”

This week I have heard one quote even more though:

Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Despite this not being original to Billy, but rather a paraphrase of the words of D L Moody, it is a great quote and very suitable for the time.

It is highly appropriate that we honour Billy Graham. I am sure he is where he wanted to be for a long time now, free from his 99 year-old frail body and in the presence of the saviour he never ceased talking about. The best thing we can do to remember and honour him is to continue talking about our saviour and to take every opportunity to introduce people to Jesus.